Because he never turned in a bad performance and was one of the best actors America has produced, if Philip Seymour Hoffman were still alive Oscar attention would be paid to his last performance released in theaters, A Most Wanted Man. Hoffman’s been earning raves  and the film has already made $7 million at the box office.  So we have to wonder whether the Academy, or the Screen Actors Guild, or the HFPA will honor Hoffman posthumously as a way of paying tribute to the dearly departed actor.

Of course, Best Actor is traditionally the most competitive category behind Best Picture. In a recent poll, AwardsDaily readers picked the following for the top five:

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Joaquin Phoenix, Inherent Vice
Timothy Spall, Mr. Turner
Benedict Cumberbatch – Imitation Game

I don’t know if I agree with your police work, there, dear readers. Two of five of these I’ve seen and believe them to be near-locks. I’d bet the bank on Keaton getting in.  Phoenix and Cumberbatch are the sight unseen performances and it’s never wise to go with those until people start seeing them.  Always start with what you know. In terms of Hoffman, his performance is a known:

The LA Times Kenneth Turan:

The last we see of Philip Seymour Hoffman in “A Most Wanted Man,” he leaves his car and walks out of the frame. As it tragically turned out, he was exiting his acting career as well, and this taut, involving thriller, the late actor’s final starring role, is a fitting film for him to leave on, not only because it is so expertly done but because his role was so challenging.

Even for as brilliant a chameleon as Hoffman, a hefty man who won an Oscar for convincing us he was elfin Truman Capote, making us believe he was Günther Bachmann, a German intelligence officer, had to be one of the most demanding roles in a lifetime full of them. Even John le Carré, whose novel is the film’s source material, wasn’t sure he was up to it.

“For the first few minutes of listening to him, I thought ‘Crikey,'” the novelist wrote in a New York Times essay. “Then, gradually, he did what only the greatest actors can do. He made his voice the only authentic one, the lonely one, the odd one out, the one you depended on amid all the others.”

Not only is Hoffman at the top of his form here, the rest of the cast, including Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Robin Wright, German stars Nina Hoss and Daniel Brühl and Russian Grigoriy Dobrygin, have committed themselves fully as well.

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone:

The late Philip Seymour Hoffman will show up again onscreen in the supporting cast of the next Hunger Games. But the last full-scale Hoffman performance – and it’s a master class in acting – comes in A Most Wanted Man, Anton Corbijn’s tense, twisty and terrific spy thriller, based on John le Carré’s 2008 novel. Hoffman, who died in February, plays Günther Bachmann, a German intelligence operative. Since 9/11, Günther has been heading a small-scale spy unit that tracks the Muslim community in Hamburg, where the attack on America was formulated.

Erik Kohn, Indiewire:

Above all, there’s Hoffman. Through passing references to an earlier incident that overshadows his career, and glances of him hitting the bottle, “A Most Wanted Man” gradually fleshes out the character’s background. There are hints of his repressed sexuality and heavy loneliness, but much remains up for interpretation. Hoffman embraces the opportunity with the same relish he brought to cryptic schemers in “The Master” and “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” among many other brilliant performances.

Manohla Dargis, New York Times:

Mr. Hoffman’s performance is so finely etched — and the story so irresistible — that the film becomes, almost inescapably, something of a last testament.

One of the things to remember about Best Actor is that it is almost always tied to Best Picture.  Not always, of course, but often the film with the most Best Picture heat generally will land a lead acting nod. And lately, that’s been mostly male.

But if we’re not talking Best Picture—>Best Actor, one does consider other circumstances, and in Hoffman’s case, there’s a definite possibility that the combination of deserving performance and paying tribute to his massive contribution to cinema could make a dent in the Best Actor race.

When it comes to winning the Best Actor prize, it is almost always tied with a Best Picture nominee.  Since 1970, 35 out of 40 Best Actor winners were in a Best Picture nominee, give or take a name or two, but it’s fairly significant. Since Oscar changed up to more than five Best Picture nominees, only one – Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart – won without a Best Picture nomination.  What usually makes the difference is a contender’s overdue status. That is usually the only thing that can trump Best Picture heat.

So, to my mind, for Hoffman to have a fighting chance, two things would need to be in play. The first, overdue status. Hoffman won Best Actor for Capote so there might not be an urgency to give him a win. But we’re really only talking about a nomination here, not a win. So having a posthumous nomination for such a treasured actor is not outside the realm of possibility, even without a Best Picture nomination.  The second thing would be, obviously, a Best Picture nomination or any ensemble nomination from SAG.

In terms of nominations, since 1970, roughly 114 (counted myself, so give or take) out of 200 nominations were nominees in Best Picture contenders. It is by no means a dominating factor. Best Actor and Best Picture became more linked in later years, beginning in the 1980s and up to now. Last year, all five Best Actor nominees were in a Best Picture contender.

Given all of these considerations, the power of Hoffman’s work, his stature and his legacy, one either noted his dominating presence in this race for Best Actor or considers oneself asleep at the wheel.

It’s a hard thing to deal with Hoffman’s death vis a vis something as sickening as the Oscar race. That’s a given. But if you’re here and you’re reading this you already know that this is our job here at AwardsDaily.  Few things make the Oscar race worthwhile. Occasionally they make a difference in the world – and can certainly make the difference in someone’s career.  It would be an even bigger shame if Hoffman weren’t considered simply because he is not here to do the required dog and pony show all actors have to do now.

What do you think, Oscarwatchers?

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  • david

    I think Philip Seymour Hoffman has a great chance to be nominated

  • It depends. I think if there are another 5 that are truly worthy of a nomination then, no. I think they might be judgmental enough to bump him. But that’s assuming it’s close.

    That’s great to hear about Keaton. I don’t know if he was ever underrated but under appreciated definitely.

  • Natasha Hammond

    I can’t recall if I did vote for Hoffman as one of my 10 best actor picks in the poll or not, but I did mention in the comments section of either that post or a related post that posthumous sympathy for Hoffman or James Gandolfini should not be ignored at this time.philip Seymour Hoffman’s name should never disappear from our radars as one of the five best actor nominees until they are actually anounced and his name does not appear amongst them. It is only like you said Sasha because of the politicking involved in winning an Oscar in most cases that I was reluctant to vote for him. There is no doubt in my mind that he was the greatest actor to appear on film screens during the 15 to 20 years if not all time.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    I’m sure not many missed this, but if you did make sure you correct that.


  • James

    Saw it Saturday. It’s a possibility. I think it has a chance to be some decent doe at the box office…I mean…for the kind of film that it is. It probably won’t break 100 mil or anything. It’s been well received by critics. If they make a heavy campaign…maybe. I feel like Focus Features a few years ago could have gotten this film some love. He’s certainly deserving of any kind of recognition especially in his final moments. Reality is coming in, Still have to see God’s Pocket which I didn’t even realize was out already in limited theaters. Then there’s whatever screen time he has in Hunger Games. Ah man. Reality is setting in. No more Hoffman films. My dad and I was just stunned by his performance feeling that “he makes it look so easy.” Definitely a leading performance. I know some early predictors were predicting supporting, but after seeing it there’s very little argument in my opinion. Kind of want to see it again. Also has some of his trademark humor. McAdams(well cast actually) flips the camera off. Hoffman: Haha hello.

  • g

    I just saw this movie on Sunday. It was fabulous and everyone I saw it with loved it. I thought Philip gave one of his best performance ever, when he was wheezing at the end I mean wow it gave me chills. The supporting cast was very good as well.

  • Q Mark

    After seeing the film tonight, I’d tend to lean towards not nominating Hoffman unless it ends up being a weak year. PSH is very good in the role yet given his high standards, I’d rank this as a mid-tier Hoffman performance. Had he not passed away, I don’t think anyone would be citing this as an Oscar contender.

    Now, I also caught Get On Up the other day and speaking of Best Actor contenders, wow, Chadwick Boseman. He has the impossible task of trying to replicate James Brown’s distinctive personality and he hits it out of the park.

  • KC

    I saw it last night and it made me neither as happy nor sad as I expected. It was perhaps simply comforting to see PSH’s talent baffling me as it always does. With the film coming out so early in the season, I think he’d be overlooked for a nomination if he were alive. Another Oscar nomination isn’t going to bring him back. We should just cherish the performance on its own terms, by his incredibly high standards.

  • It would great if he got in. Honorable, and probably warranted.

    On a side note, I watch Punch Drunk Love again the other day. He was superb in that yet again, even though he was only in it about 5 minutes.

    “Shut up! Shut the fuck up! Shut up! Will you shut up. Shut up! Shut shut shut shut shut up! Shut up! Now!”

  • Mari Cos

    As a great admirer of PSH’s talent and work, I was reluctant to see this film as I expected to feel sadness thinking how his death was a great loss to his loved ones and the film/theatre community. However, once I heard his first sentence as Gunther, I was captured by his role and once again mesmerized by the brilliance of his performance. He magnificently portrayed the subtleties of this German identity; part of his success has been his ability to contain himself in a role and not overdo it. I enjoyed the film and his performance immensely and now feel saddened that film aficionados won’t be able to see anything else from him. His passing is truly an unfortunate tragedy.

  • I’m a big fan of all these movies.minatedn a big fan of all the actors nominated for Best Supporting Actor.With my 30 years of being an A list movie critic whom even Roger Ebert would call for advice,from time to time.Philip Seymour Hoffman hands down. takes the prize this year. Mr Hoffman’s hands down is better than any other nominees for Best Supporting Actor this year

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  • Chrissie Dyson

    Current Oscar performances aside, I think he would fully deserve a Lifetime Achievement Award. I loved him in Boogie Nights and The Talented Mr Ripley. He was so convincing in both, as if those characters had always existed and were real people. I confess to being a bit of a klutz when it comes to discussing acting but I do rate him as being one of the true Hollywood greats as a character actor. In Boogie Nights he was in a supporting role but my heart just went out to him, quietly heartbreaking. In The Talented Mr Ripley he was hateful but so convincing. I would love to see him honoured.


    PSH was like a ghost

    such an eerie presence

    nina hoss looking at him after the rendition ……….. wow

  • night

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